Justia Idaho Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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The issue this appeal presented for the Idaho Supreme Court's review centered on whether Sky Down Skydiving, LLC, improperly designated its tandem skydiving instructors and parachute packers as independent contractors, rather than as employees, thereby eliminating the need for worker’s compensation insurance. After notifying the company that it was in violation of Idaho Code section 72-301, the Industrial Commission filed a civil law suit against Sky Down for penalties and injunctive relief. Following a bench trial, the magistrate court concluded that the instructors and parachute packers were independent contractors. The magistrate court then dismissed the Commission’s complaint with prejudice. After the case was dismissed, a witness contacted the Industrial Commission’s counsel to recant his earlier testimony. The Commission then filed a motion for a new trial, which was denied by the magistrate court. The Commission filed an intermediate appeal with the district court, which affirmed the magistrate court’s decision. The Commission then timely appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court, which reversed and remanded because both lower courts erred by failing to apply the proper test, and the district court erred in concluding there was substantial and competent evidence to support the magistrate court’s findings. View "Idaho ex rel. Industrial Commission v. Sky Down Sky Diving" on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from Carol McCoy Brown’s petition for an elective share of her decedent husband’s augmented estate. When Michael Orion Brown (the decedent) died intestate, she discovered that he had set aside multiple payable on death (POD) accounts for his children and grandchildren from a prior marriage. Carol filed a petition to recover a portion of the POD funds as part of the decedent’s augmented estate. The decedent’s children, Dorraine Pool and Michael J. Brown (the Heirs), challenged the petition. The magistrate court denied Carol's petition, concluding that she had not met her burden of demonstrating that the POD funds were quasi-community property as required by the elective share statutes. Carol appealed to the district court, which affirmed the magistrate court’s denial of the petition, and granted the Heirs attorney fees. Still aggrieved, Carol sought certiorari review by the Idaho Supreme Court. But finding no reversible error in either of the lower courts' decisions, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Brown v. Brown" on Justia Law

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Michael Richardson was injured while working, and attempted to recover personal injury damages outside of the worker’s compensation system. Hayden Homes subcontracted with Z&H Construction, LLC, Plumbing Unlimited, LLC, and Alignment Construction, LLC for various aspects of a new construction project. Richardson was employed by Alignment, and worked on Hayden’s construction project. He was injured when he fell through a crawl space cover at the construction site. He received a worker’s compensation award from the worker’s compensation insurer for his direct employer, Alignment. After Richardson received his worker’s compensation award, he sued Z&H, Hernandez Framing, LLC (a subcontractor of Z&H), and Plumbing Unlimited (collectively, “Respondent LLCs”), alleging negligence in the construction of the crawl space cover. The district court granted the Respondent LLCs’ motion for summary judgment, determining that the Respondent LLCs were Richardson’s statutory co-employees and immune from suit pursuant to Idaho Code section 72- 209(3). Finding no reversible error in that reasoning, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s order granting summary judgment. View "Richardson v. Z&H Construction, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Department of Environmental Quality (“DEQ”) brought a civil enforcement action under the Environmental Protection and Health Act against David Gibson and VHS Properties, LLC, (“VHS”), for illegally operating a composting facility. After a three-day bench trial, the district court determined that Gibson was operating a “Tier II Solid Waste Processing Facility” without prior approval from DEQ. The district court assessed a civil penalty and issued an injunction. On appeal, Gibson raised a number of issues regarding DEQ’s authority to regulate compost and its inspection of the property. DEQ argued Gibson’s appeal was partially time-barred. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court held that although Gibson’s appeal was not time-barred, he failed to show error. Therefore, it affirmed the district court. View "DEQ v. Gibson" on Justia Law

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Penny Phillips, her son, and daughter, brought a medical malpractice suit against various Idaho Falls health care providers. Phillips and her children alleged the health care providers were negligent in the care they provided to Phillips’ husband, Scott Phillips, immediately prior to his death by suicide. The district court rejected the Phillipses’ claims by granting summary judgment in favor of the health care providers. The Phillipses appealed several adverse rulings by the district court. The health care providers cross-appealed, contending the district court abused its discretion in amending the scheduling order to allow the Phillipses to name a rebuttal expert. The Idaho Supreme Court determined summary judgment was improvidently granted: it was an abuse of the trial court's discretion in: (1) granting the providers' motion for a protective order preventing the Phillipses from conducting a I.R.C.P. 30(b)(6) deposition regarding the community standard of care; (2) in allowing depositions of local familiarization experts because it did not apply the correct standard; and (3) striking an expert's testimony because that expert demonstrated the requisite actual knowledge of the local standard of care. The court did not abuse its discretion in granting the Phillipses' motion to amend the scheduling order. Therefore, the trial court's judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Phillips v. Eastern ID Health Svcs" on Justia Law

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Jeff Good and Harry’s Dairy entered into a contract providing that Harry’s Dairy would purchase 3,000 tons of Good’s hay. Harry’s Dairy paid for and hauled approximately 1,000 tons of hay over a period of approximately eight weeks, but did not always pay for the hay before hauling it and at one point went several weeks without hauling hay. After Harry’s Dairy went a month without hauling additional hay, Good demanded that Harry’s Dairy begin paying for and hauling the remaining hay. Harry’s Dairy responded that it had encountered mold in some of the hay, but would be willing to pay for and haul non-moldy hay at the contract price. Good then sold the remaining hay for a substantially lower price than he would have received under the contract, and filed a complaint against Harry’s Dairy alleging breach of contract. Harry’s Dairy counterclaimed for violation of implied and express warranties and breach of contract. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Good on all claims, and a jury ultimately awarded Good $144,000 in damages. Harry’s Dairy appealed, arguing that there were several genuine issues of material fact precluding summary judgment, that the jury verdict was not supported by substantial and competent evidence, and that the district court erred in awarding attorney fees, costs, and prejudgment interest to Good. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the district court erred only in its decision with respect to Good’s breach of contract claim and Harry’s Dairy’s breach of the implied warranty of merchantability claims. Judgment was vacated and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Good v. Harry's Dairy" on Justia Law

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Phillip and Marcia Eldridge filed a medical malpractice suit against Dr. Gregory West (West), Lance Turpin, PA-C (Turpin), and Summit Orthopaedics Specialists, PLLC (Summit), alleging Phillip became infected with Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) as a result of malpractice committed by West, Turpin, and agents of Summit. West performed hip replacement surgery on Phillip’s right hip in October 2009. In 2012, West performed what he later described as exploratory surgery on Phillip’s hip to determine the source of Phillip’s pain, as well as the potential replacement of components if an infection were found. All of the test results from the samples sent to the pathology department indicated there was no infection in the hip. Rather than explant the hip in its entirety, West replaced only the metal ball at the head of the femur with a ceramic ball. Following the second surgery, Phillip experienced numerous adverse complications. Phillip would have another revision a few months later, during which the MRSA was discovered. The Eldridges claimed West and Turpin breached the standard of care that was due them and as a result, sustained damages. The district court granted various motions, including a motion to dismiss certain causes of action against West, Turpin, and Summit, as well as a motion for summary judgment brought by Turpin and Summit, and a motion for partial summary judgment brought by West. In their appeal, the Eldridges contended the district court erred by: (1) dismissing their claims for negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, gross negligence, and reckless, willful, and wanton conduct; (2) denying their motion to strike the affidavits of West and Turpin; (3) limiting their claim for damages; and (4) concluding that the Eldridges could only present evidence of damages, specifically medical bills, after the Medicare write-offs had been calculated. In affirming in part and reversing in part, the Idaho Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in refusing to strike portions of West’s first affidavit and Turpin’s affidavit because they were conclusory. Furthermore, the district court abused its discretion in precluding the Eldridges from putting on proof of damages that arose after April 24, 2013, and their presentation of damages. Orders granting summary judgment to West regarding the Eldridges’ informed consent claim and Turpin were affirmed. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Eldridge v. West" on Justia Law

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Natalie Shubert filed a negligence claim against her former public defender, Michael Lojek, former Ada County chief public defender Alan Trimming, and Ada County (collectively, “Ada County Defendants”). In 2008, Shubert was charged with two felonies and pleaded guilty to both charges. Her sentences were suspended in each case, and she was placed on probation. After a probation violation in 2011, the Ada County district court entered an order extending Shubert’s probation beyond the time period allowed by law, and the mistake was not caught. After Shubert’s probation should have ended in both cases, she was charged and incarcerated for a subsequent probation violation in 2014. Thereafter, in 2016, Shubert was charged with a new probation violation. Shubert was assigned a new public defender, who discovered the error that unlawfully kept Shubert on probation. Shubert’s new public defender filed a motion to correct the illegal sentence, raising the error that had improperly extended her probation. The district court granted Shubert’s motion to correct the illegal sentence and released Shubert from custody. Shubert then sued her original public defender, the Ada County Public Defender’s Officer, and other unknown Ada County employees alleging false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence per se, negligence, and state and federal constitutional violations. The district court dismissed all of Shubert’s claims except for negligence. In denying the Ada County Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on Shubert’s negligence claim, the district court held that public defenders were not entitled to common law quasi-judicial immunity from civil malpractice liability, and two provisions of the Idaho Tort Claims Act (ITCA) did not exempt public defenders from civil malpractice liability. The Ada County Defendants petitioned the Idaho Supreme Court, but the Supreme Court affirmed, finding the district court did not err in its finding that the public defenders and the County were not entitled to immunity. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Shubert v. Ada County" on Justia Law

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Francisca Gomez died as the result of a horrific industrial accident that occurred while she was cleaning a seed sorting machine as part of her employment with the Crookham Company (“Crookham”). Her family (the Gomezes) received worker’s compensation benefits and also brought a wrongful death action. The Gomezes appealed a district court’s grant of summary judgment to Crookham on all claims relating to Mrs. Gomez’s death. The district court held that Mrs. Gomez was working within the scope of her employment at the time of the accident, that all of the Gomezes’ claims were barred by the exclusive remedy rule of Idaho worker’s compensation law, that the exception to the exclusive remedy rule provided by Idaho Code section 72-209(3) did not apply, and that the Gomezes’ product liability claims fail as a matter of law because Crookham is not a “manufacturer.” The Idaho Supreme Court determined that given the totality of the evidence in this case, which included prior OSHA violations for similar safety issues, the district court erred by failing to consider whether Crookham consciously disregarded information suggesting a significant risk to its employees working at or under the picking tables, which were neither locked nor tagged out, as they existed on the date of the accident. On this basis, the decision of the district court granting summary judgment to Crookham was reversed and the matter remanded for the trial court to apply the proper standard for proving an act of unprovoked physical aggression, and to determine whether there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Crookham consciously disregarded knowledge of a serious risk to Mrs. Gomez. View "Gomez v. Crookham" on Justia Law

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Shane and Rebecca Ackerschott sued Mountain View Hospital, LLC, doing business as Redicare (“Redicare”), after Shane sustained an injury leading to paraplegia. A jury found Redicare’s treatment of Shane breached the standard of care and awarded the Ackerschotts $7,958,113.67 in total damages. After judgment was entered, Redicare filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, or in the alternative, a new trial. The Ackerschotts also moved to alter or amend the judgment. All post-trial motions were denied. Redicare appealed, arguing the district court erred by not submitting an instruction on comparative negligence to the jury and by allowing testimony of the Ackerschotts’ expert witness. The Ackerschotts cross-appealed, arguing the cap on noneconomic damages imposed by Idaho Code section 6-1603 was unconstitutional. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed as to Redicare’s direct appeal, and declined to reach the merits of the Ackerschotts’ constitutional claim on cross-appeal. View "Ackerschott v. Mtn View Hospital; Redicare" on Justia Law